November 19th, 2014

Crable, Filley off to big starts at Auburn


Roy Walter

Assistant Editor

Crable, Filley off to big starts at Auburn
Alexa Filley already has broken the Tigers’ school record for assists in a season / photo and cover photo by Anthony Hall

When Courtney Crable and Alexa Filley signed to play volleyball for Auburn University, they hoped to make an impact someday, but they didn’t know how long it would take.

As it turned out, it didn’t take long at all.

The two former Louisville high school stars have started every set of every match for the Tigers as freshmen. Though neither player knew what to expect when they joined the team, their early success comes as no surprise to head coach Rick Nold.

“You never know exactly what roles somebody’s going to jump into, but I knew they’d be able to come in and help us, without a doubt,” Nold said. “I think if you look at their history, obviously they’re skilled. We definitely were expecting an immediate impact from them, and they came in and they battled for their spots and earned them.”

And the two haven’t just established themselves as starters, they’ve flourished.

Crable leads the Tigers in kills (285, 2.82 per set) and aces (28, 0.28), and the 5-9 Filley already has broken the school record for assists in a season since the NCAA went to the current scoring system in 2008 (it shortened sets from 30 points to win to 25). In 27 matches, Filley has 1,013 assists with four matches left in the regular season and is just the eighth Auburn setter ever to reach 1,000 assists in one season. Filley also is second on the team in digs (293).

As Nold said, their history does indeed indicate they were headed to success.

As a senior at Assumption High School, Filley was named the 2013-14 Gatorade National Player of the Year and Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year. Crable, had a similarly impressive career at Mercy, being named the 2012 Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year, the 2013 Kentucky Miss Volleyball and a 2013-14 Under Armour first-team All-American.  

Despite those gaudy credentials, however, they had to undergo a learning curve when they got to college. Crable said time management was part of the process.

“It’s a lot more time consuming than high school ever was,” the 6-foot-1 outside hitter said. “Yeah, it’s been difficult, but it hasn’t been as bad as I was expecting. On the court, the speed of the game is probably the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make. But all the upperclassmen and my other teammates help us and they encourage us, so it’s been fine.”

Filley said she felt well-prepared for the rigorous college game when she left Louisville.

“It wasn’t too hard after playing at such a competitive high school and in such a competitive club (Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Association), so it really wasn’t that bad,” Filley said. “It’s just a lot more hours. A lot more time spent playing volleyball and thinking about volleyball.”

She said her biggest adjustment involved learning to be more of a student of the game.

“We didn’t watch film in high school, so now that we’re in college we have to watch film and know what different players do,” Filley said.

When they were in high school, Filley committed to Auburn before Crable did, but both players fell in love with the Southeastern Conference school’s campus and coaching staff when they visited.

They had known each other for several years as teammates on their club team at KIVA. They were friends, but they became fierce rivals whenever they faced each other in Mercy-Assumption matches.

“We’re both really competitive people, so we wanted to win,” Filley said. “It would get very competitive.”

Crable said the fact that Filley had committed to Auburn may have made some difference when she picked a college.

“I think that was always in the back of my head, but I made the decision for me because I knew it was the right fit for me,” Crable said.

And both players are happy they wound up being college teammates.

“It’s awesome,” said Crable, who is on a pre-physical therapy track at Auburn. “I’ve always loved playing with her and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to continue playing with her once we got to the next level. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s nice having a familiar person on the court with me.”

Filley, a pre-pharmacy major, said having Crable nearby has helped her transition to college go easier, on and off the court.

“It’s really nice having her here, someone I know from home,” Filley said. “We can talk to each other if we ever get homesick or anything and just having that same mentality of working hard and what I’ve been used to when I was at Assumption. So it’s great to have her here.”

Nold pulled off quite a coup when he signed the two most decorated seniors in Kentucky in the 2014 class. He said it took a lot of time and effort to land them both.

But it also didn’t hurt that he had some connections.

Nold grew up in Louisville and began his coaching career as an assistant at Assumption before joining the University of Louisville staff in 1996. During that period, he also was the head coach of the 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams at KIVA.

And it may have helped that he coached Filley’s aunt, Annie Filley Boehnlein, when she played for both Assumption and U of L. Boehnlein now is an assistant coach at Assumption.

“With me being from Louisville, I knew some people and I felt like they (Crable and Filley) would be two who could come in and be able to really help us,” Nold said. “So we made them a big priority.”

He added that it wouldn’t be unusual for U of L to sign two talented Louisville players in one year, but it was a big deal for Auburn.

“Down here, to have two come in and have the impact they’ve had, it’s a unique situation and fortunately it’s happened to us,” the coach said.

Nold added that both of his players from his hometown excel because they are fierce competitors.

He said Crable has withstood the pressure of starting well and has improved as the season has progressed.

“We’ve put her in a lot of tough positions, and she’s handled the out-of-system balls probably better than anybody I’ve ever had,” Nold said. “She’s aggressive out of system. She can make smart shots, and I think that’s been the strength of her game.”

As for Filley, Nold said she is the type of player who makes her teammates better.

“She puts up a very hittable ball and has an understanding of the game, so she does a good job of running our offense,” he said. “Another of her strengths would be on defense. I think she’s just got such a well-rounded game and understanding of the game. That allows her to be a really great leader for us.”

Filley and Crable both stay in contact with their former high school teammates and kept track of how the Jaguars and Rockets did during the 2014 season.

And, of course, Filley has a direct pipeline to everything Assumption volleyball through her Aunt Annie.

“It’s nice having everyone at Assumption still thinking about me and keeping in touch with them,” Filley said.

Earlier this month, Crable was unavailable to answer a phone call with thrilling news. It came while Auburn was beating Tennessee in four sets at the same time Mercy was beating Notre Dame Academy in five sets to win the Kentucky high school championship.

As soon as her match ended, she picked up her phone and played the message informing her that the Jaguars had won the state title after dropping five-set losses to eventual state champion Assumption in each of the previous two state tourneys.

“I was so excited — I started jumping up and down,” Crable recalled. “I am so proud of their season.”

At that time, Filley knew that Assumption’s streak of four straight state titles had ended in the regional. She wished the Rockets had won their fifth straight without her.

“I definitely wanted it for all those seniors because I played with them for the three years they were there when I was there,” Filley said. “It’s sad, but they’re going to keep working hard, and I know that Assumption will keep doing their thing and keep pushing to win more state championships.”


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